Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year 2012

During the last week of December 2011 we left “Blue Rodeo”
safely in the Riviera Nayarit Marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico and flew to Los Angeles for a Christmas
holiday visit with Mark’s family. We had
a splendid time, made extra special by
the fact that all of Mark’s siblings were able to be there for the
festivities. When we flew back into the
Puerto Vallarta airport on December 30th, we were met by dear
friends Howard and Lynn from the sailing vessel “Swift Current”. We’ve truly begun to think of them as part
of our family so the return felt like another home coming. We learned that our friend Karen had been
organizing a New Year’s Eve celebration to be held at her cute little home near
the marina. The next day, Anne met Karen
at the local fish market and they bought a giant, 5 kilo (approximately 11 pounds) bag of fresh shrimp while ogling the large and often
unidentifiable fish on the tables around them.
New Year’s Eve was spent at Karen’s casita gorging on peel ‘n eat shrimp
and Caesar salad. After dinner, we all
moseyed into town to listen to live music and dance in a restaurant’s outdoor
courtyard. Howard cut up the dance
floor, spinning and twirling the ladies until their arms were almost pulled from
their sockets. Lynn said that her
husband’s dance moves had often left his partners on the verge of nausea. Afterwards,
we took a walk along the marina’s
breakwater to watch the midnight
fireworks display. Considering that we
are often in bed by 10pm, partying until past midnight made us all feel young
at heart.
Several days later, we decided to take a driving trip up the
coast to the quaint little surf resort town of Sayulita. On the way, we stopped at another beach town
named San Pancho. It is a small village
with several charming hotels, a number of gorgeous private homes and a few restaurants shaded by dense palm
groves. Before sitting down for a scrumptious lunch, we
strolled along the pristine, white sand beach watching large breaking waves
crash onto the shore. Last year we were
only able to spend a few minutes in Sayulita so this year we were anxious to
check it out a bit more. It also has a
large beach but it is quite crowded with wanna -be surfers and a more
alternative lifestyle crowd. Sayulita is
a perfect venue for people watching and
touring the eclectic shops and galleries.
The town is also known for hosting winter yoga retreats for folks
looking to escape the cold weather up north.
The next day we once again piled in the car and headed to
downtown Puerto Vallarta where we walked its famous and colorful malecon (beach
front promenade). Lunch at an out of
the way restaurant with a fern grotto-like patio was both delicious and
entertaining when our waiter treated us to several clever napkin tricks.
In the time between sight-seeing trips, Mark kept busy readying “Blue Rodeo” for our upcoming travels. With our South Pacific departure now less
than 3 months away, he is feeling a bit overwhelmed by his never-completed to
do list. Steady progress is being made
though and we are sure that we will be as ready as can be when the time
comes. That week, Mark also spent hours
and hours studying and taking practice
tests to prepare himself for a Ham radio license exam that was being offered in
near- by Puerto Vallarta. He
successfully passed the test so we can now fully utilize one of the long range
communication radios that we have aboard our boat.
On Sunday January 8th, longtime friends from
Seattle, Carol and Bevin, flew down for a visit. After introducing them to our favorite spots
in La Cruz and doing some last-minute provisioning, we set sail for an
overnight passage down the coast to the small town of Chamela. We
have grown so fond of La Cruz, and especially our friend Karen who lives there,
that saying adios was even more difficult this time. Our plan is to return
there in February to begin provisioning and final preparation for our South
Pacific crossing but sadly, Karen will be off on her own sailing adventure
crewing on a boat heading through Central
America and the Panama canal.,
Our trip south with Bevin and Carol began on an exciting
note when while dodging groups of frolicking hump back whales, we managed to catch several fish on our
trolling lines. The biggest one stripped
most of the line from one of our reels and put up quite a fight. While Mark did his best to steer the boat and
slow it down while keeping an eye out for whales in our path, Anne and Bevin took turns fighting the fish
and slowly bringing it close enough to be gaffed and brought aboard. Carol scampered about with cameras in-hand
documenting the action from as many angles as possible. The fish, that we hoped was a Yellow Fin tuna,
appeared to weigh between 30-35 lbs and was the biggest we’ve caught while
sailing. A determined effort on the part
of all four of us was needed to subdue the flapping beast and eventually cut it
into thick fillets. By the time we were
finished there was blood splattered all over the back of our cockpit and
transom and a lot of time and effort was spent cleaning up the mess. After the fish was bagged and in the
refrigerator and things had settled down a bit, our group began using our fish
identification books and charts to more thoroughly investigate the exact kind
of fish that we had caught. While it did
indeed have yellow fins, we were dismayed to learn that it was just an
exceptionally large Jack Carvalle which, we know from experience, are not very
good eating. In the end, we returned the
meat to the sea where it would become food for some other creatures and felt
bad about killing the fish. As it turns
out though, the fish had completely swallowed our lure so it’s unlikely that it
would have survived, even though we managed to remove the large hook from its
As we sailed into the evening with a fair wind pushing us
swiftly toward our destination, Anne and
Carol prepared dinner as the first light of the full moon began to rise over
the coastal mountains. We all dined in
the cockpit while “Blue Rodeo’s” trusty autopilot did the steering. When dinner was finished and the dishes done,
we settled into a rotation of watches that would give everyone a chance to get
some sleep during the night. With the moonlight
sparkling on the water around us, the night-time hours seemed to pass quickly
as we all reveled in the natural beauty.

Monday, January 16, 2012

December 2011 Blog

Our time anchored at Punta de Mita was really special this year. From time spent there last season, we knew our way around the town and what was available. The day after our arrival, we dinghied to the beach and took the short walk into town to replenish our supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. While walking from a pickup truck mobile produce stand, we talked about how we needed to get in touch with Karen, a friend from last year, who lives in nearby La Cruz. Suddenly, in one of those strange coincidences that make you go… “hmmm”, we heard a car honk its horn and lo and behold if it wasn’t Karen behind the wheel. She said she was there to do some stand-up paddle surfing with friends. After exchanging hugs, we all decided to go for drinks at a beachside palapa restaurant where we met several more of her friends from the area. It was such a fun afternoon. The next two days were spent stand-up paddle surfing and Anne, on her first day, caught two good waves, riding them all the way to the beach. Quite an accomplishment for her first day of surfing! She later exclaimed that she is now hooked! Back aboard “Blue Rodeo”, we enjoyed relaxing evenings and beautiful sunsets. Looking forward to a few more days there, we were disappointed one morning to discover the batteries that provide power to all of our household systems were not performing as usual. Mark did some checking and found we had a bad cell in one of the batteries affecting the ability of the others to hold a proper charge. This was not good news and we knew we had better head into the marina in La Cruz right away to check it out.

Although we were disappointed to leave Punta de Mita earlier than planned, we were happy to arrive in La Cruz as it is one of our favorite places on the mainland. The marina is very cruiser friendly and the little town is full of surprises. It is known for having great music from such locals as Brian Savage and Philo Hayward and an assortment of wonderful dining experiences with an eclectic mix of restaurants. On Sundays there is a large outdoor market just outside of the marina. Anne loves to go exploring there and usually returns to our boat with all kinds of goodies ranging from chocolate tamales to jewelry. After settling into a marina slip and checking in with the office, we couldn’t wait to explore the town and see what had changed since last year. After reacquainting ourselves once again, Mark got down to the serious business of determining exactly what was going on with those darn batteries. After exchanging emails and speaking to good friend Steve, it was decided new batteries were in order. Steve referred us to a distributor in Guadalajara where we might find the specific, somewhat unusual model of batteries we needed. Mark immediately emailed them and received a timely reply in broken English reporting that they did indeed have them in stock. Our friend Karen, who is fluent in Spanish, helped confirm by telephone that the batteries were available in as little as two day’s time. The next step was to arrange for transportation. Mark remembered a Brit named Mathew who had a van service and enlisted his services for the drive to Guadalajara and back. We invited Karen and sailing friends Lynn and Howard to join us and departed the next Monday morning. Mathew has taken many tourists to Guadalajara and was the perfect tour guide. We traveled in a very comfortable, new Toyota, 10 passenger van. He had the trip planned to drive the coastal route on the way over, via the quaint distillery town of Tequila. We stopped there and had a leisurely lunch and a walk about. After piling back in the van, we drove the rest of the way to Guadalajara where Mathew’s wife’s family owns a small hotel in the university district of the city. Upon arrival, we checked-in and headed out for an evening of exploring. With Christmas just days away, the city was bustling with energy. Shoppers and revelers were everywhere as were lots of street vendors and performers. We visited the huge municipal market that extended for several blocks and was 3 stories high. Every square inch was packed with merchandise varying from flowers, both fresh and artificial, to produce and merchandise. It had everything you could imagine for sale. One whole floor was devoted to electronics. We meandered through the tightly packed lower floor, feeling a bit claustrophobic, and managed to find Mark’s four year old niece a traditional dress, in the color of the Mexican flag, for Christmas. As we continued to stroll about the town, we enjoyed all the wonderful decorations hung above the streets. An interesting thing we noted was all the shops with clothing for christenings, girl’s coming-of-age parties, weddings and formal balls. We had never seen anything like it. The “people watching” was fabulous and we ended up taking loads of pictures. Karen took us to a great little dinner spot written up in the Lonely Planet travel guide which we really enjoyed. Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

The next morning the boys drove off to find the batteries while the girls went in search of coffee. Upon meeting up, we were happy to learn that the batteries were indeed in stock and we now had them in our hot little hands. What a relief! With that weight off of our minds, we then departed for the nearby market town of Tlaquepaque. We walked around the town, which is famous for artwork, crafts and furniture, and saw amazing works from the local artisans.

After lunch, it was back on the highway driving through beautiful agricultural areas as we followed the two lane road as it climbed into the jungle-covered mountains. Our return route to Puerto Vallarta would take us through several small and historic towns. The last several hours were spent negotiating the narrow and winding road after dark. Boy, were we glad someone else was doing the driving. By 8:30pm we were back at the marina unloading our four, shinny, new batteries weighing 128 pounds each. By early the next morning, the batteries were installed in “Blue Rodeo” and happily supplying power to our electrical system. The excursion to obtain them had been an enjoyable adventure and the time elapsed from when we determined that we needed new batteries until when they were installed was just six days. We would later learn that others had been waiting for over six weeks for locally ordered batteries to arrive from the States. I guess we’ll continue to count our “lucky stars”.